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trail cabin

On June 12, 2011 a public grand opening was held for a new shelter hut on Manzanita Bluff, constructed by the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society (PRPAWS ) on the Sunshine Coast Trail

manzanitaThe hut is the sixth of eight structures going in along the 180 km hiking trail. Core funding for the buildings has been provided by a grant from the BC government Island Coastal Economic Trust program, chaired by Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk. A feature of the program is to allow project selection and decision-making by local governments.

PRPAWS is doing all the work on the Sunshine Coast Trail and deserves great credit for rallying public support as well as massive contributions of time, labor, and in-kind donations from volunteers. The results are the huts and cabins which have been designed and sited with care and appropriateness and built to a durable standard with a basic simplicity which can be  maintained economically.

The design of the shelter hut has evolved in this and recent versions to include enclosed walls on the exposed faces to exclude the weather from the ground floor eating and food prep area. The design provides a roomy sleeping loft which is fully enclosed and secure from furry intruders and weather.

The view from the shelter is a panorama of Malaspina Strait (the Salish Sea) with Savary Island visible offshore. This is a sunny southwestern exposure just right for hikers to bask in and dry off if caught in rainy weather. This exposure also accounts for the dry zone forest type in the immediate mid-elevation location which is north of Powell River with access from Hwy 101 to a marked trailhead point on Malaspina Road.

trees

As hikers ascend from near sea level to the upper elevations near the bluff, the presence of Arbutus trees [Arbutus menziesii] are noted in the established conifer forest environment on the well-drained slopes.

Betty

Betty Wilson of the Sliammon F.N. welcomed the gathering at the hut opening. The Manzanita Bluff is located in what is called the Gwendoline Hills on the Malaspina Penninsula - the traditional territory of the Sliammon people. She spoke in the native language.

eagleEagle Walz, PR PAWS president and one of the founders and creators of the Sunshine Coast Trail also spoke. He is the author of several guide books on hiking on the trail and throughout the region. A former teacher in Powell River, his 'retirement' has likely become more of a full-time job than any employment he has ever had. His dedication is tireless and most of all - very productive.

Barry Janyk (Mayor of Gibsons) addressed the gathering with praise for the outcome of the ICE-T funding. He is the chair of the provincial government funding body. Barry gave credit to the founders of the S.C. Trail, Eagle Walz and Scott Glaspey, and joked about running into a couple of wild, weird guys in the bush almost 20 years ago who had a fantastic pipe-dream of a nature trail running from one end of the coastal district to the other (180 km).  Whuddaya know,  some dreams come true!

manzanitaThe name MANZANITA BLUFF comes from the ornamental native shrub Hairy Manzanita [Arctostaphylos columbiana] which is typical (locally) of dry exposed rocky sites in the south coast forest.  The plant is a member of the large Ericaceae family which includes Arbutus, Rhododendron, Salal, Huckleberry and Heather.  A close relative of Manzanita is the low-growing Kinnikinnick [A. urva-ursi].

Manzanita is an evergreen shrub with leathery grey-green foliage.  It blooms in spring and develops edible berries.  It has a growth habit and bark appearance which is twisty and similar to the arbutus.

Arbutus trees enhance the picturesque landscape - nature's rock garden.  Conservation minded people should not hesitate to remind the public that these are precious assets which deserve our respect and protection.  Pristine natural areas are tough and fragile at the same time.  They cannot be improved upon by human impact, so users need to tread very lightly and leave as gentle a footprint as possible.

arbutus

Photos by David Moore.